August 31, 2011

'Tis better to have...?

Loved and lost?  Screw that hypothetical.  Love is subjective.  Also way out of the realm of this blog.

I think the core value of this blog is the debate over a much more sinister topic.  The question I want answered is this:

Is it better to have believed in a divine being and lost (that belief), or never to have believed at all?

Listening to atheists describe the freedom of not believing in the divine makes me wish I had that psychological option.  My life has been so saturated by divine belief that I feel I have no other option than to believe.  I have been too well-versed in the dialect of the deists that for every atheistic point, I am ready with a counterpoint.

For example: atheists deny there is a God.  They say God cannot exist; maybe they have arguments.  I say it's impossible to prove that God doesn't exist.  You see, logic is bound by the domain of the physical; spirituality (e.g. a divine being) is metaphysical, so proof does not apply.  Therefore one cannot "prove" or "disprove" the existence of a higher power.  With this kind of mindset, there is no way for me to doubt the existence of a higher power.

Perhaps I haven't heard all the arguments.  The best atheistic argument around is "there is no proof of a God, so there can't be one."  I cannot accept this argument because - again - proof does not encompass the entirety of reality.  Besides, lack of evidence does not prove lack of existence.  If it were that easy, there'd be more people with advanced degrees because writing a thesis would be pretty damn easy.

I'm not trying to revive a tired philosophical debate.  I am presenting my internal controversy.  I can't possibly make myself think there isn't a God, so I have to believe there is one.

Not to mention I just can't imagine natural evolution being credible.  Seriously, the universe started off as gas?  Then the gas was compressed and finally exploded?  Sounds like my dog after eating day old ham.

Let's keep going.  How does a lizard randomly generate wings?  How does a lizard think to use those wings to fly?  I tie a balloon to my dog, does she think she can fly?  No, she is scared shitless of that damn balloon.  The lizard that mutated wings would have passed out just looking at them; or tried to eat them. There's no way natural evolution occurred; the damn gas would have just given up after compressing.  Fucking molecules.

So, who has it easier here, the atheist that likely was taught by his parents that logic disproves the existence of a divine being, or someone recovering from religion like me that knows all the counterpoints?  The atheist has it easy I think.  He actually believes there is no God, so he is free to act how he wants.  Which brings up another point.  If there is no God, what is our moral basis?  You see, I can do this all day.

And therein lies my dilemma.  I have no argument NOT to believe in a divine being.  I can't be an atheist, agnostic, or any other "A" word, other than asshole.

I really need feedback on this one.

August 23, 2011

Manifest Destiny

The phrase "manifest destiny" was born in politics in the 1800's and used in a variety of situations to suggest that something HAD to happen, such as the expansion of the United States.

For the Baptists (the Independent Fundamental varietal), manifest destiny was the salvation of the entire world.  Everyone in the church was told that all souls are automatically going to hell after the age of accountability.  The actual age was often argued over (typically ranging between 4-12) at which an individual realized the difference between right and wrong.  After that point, that individual was heading for hell unless they "accepted Christ into their hearts."  During my internment within the church, that phrase was part of my daily lexicon; so it was like saying "let's go to the mall."

When I read it now, it sounds like what cultists do right before they drink the kool-aid.

Anyway, because of this manifest destiny, the Baptists were surrounded by a constant shroud of guilt.  It was up to them to save the world.  Any second they spent not attempting to proselytize the masses was considered selfish and sinful.

Not all members of the congregation actually embraced the practical application of their guilt-ridden lives, but those that did spent their spare time knocking on doors and passing out "tracts."  (Tracts were little pamphlets that tried to get people to think about how horrible it would be when they died and went to hell.)

So, how do normal people deal with the guilt of having to save the world during their lifetimes without going broke, ignoring their families, and ruining their lives?  That question never received a satisfactory answer inside the church.  As such, there were members of the church that showed up for every "witnessing" opportunity the church provided.  (Witnessing was the church's word for "spreading doctrine").  These were the fun people that showed up at your door during dinner with the burning desire to save your soul.  Didn't want to hear it? No worries...they'd leave their tracts with you because you'd read them and change your mind later (they knew this because they'd be praying for you every day after they met you).

What was these people's motivation?  I mean, after "accepting Christ," your soul is safe, right?  These people were told that their earthly acts determined their heavenly rewards.  I remember "evangelists" rolling into my churches spewing the following filth:

"The Bible says that your earthly acts will be transformed into a house that will be submitted to a literal trial by fire.  The selfish acts will turn parts of the house into consumable materials like straw and hay.  The selfless acts will turn into diamonds, gold, and other precious items.  After the house was dipped in lava, what is left will be your inheritance in heaven."

Are you kidding me??  Everything I do is systematically transformed into a test?  It's like counting spiritual calories, only the opposite: instead of burning fat, I burn selfish acts.  What's left of the house was exactly that.  It's all I get...for eternity.  So what, all these "selfless" people are now comparing the enormity of their diamonds and gold stashes in the afterlife?  It's like a spiritual pissing contest.  I'm sure Christ had that in mind...

So what's the practical application?  Maybe Calvin was right...it's not up to us to save the world...maybe the Spirit does all the work.

Thoughts?

Bob Jones University

Everyone has their own perspective on this place.  Most outsiders will recall former President (then Governor) G.W. Bush's visitation to the campus back in 2000.  (That was two years before I went).  His visit their exposed a little publicized rule the university had upheld since its inception: no inter-racial dating.  I kid you not; the year 2000 marked the revocation of that rule, which was based on the founder's family's personal preferences for their own children.  Keeping in mind that this form of racism was considered normal at this fine institution, they still uphold the rule that men and women cannot touch each other until they are married.  Further, if they are sitting too closely or seem as though they are about to touch, they can be written up.  In the three and a half years I attended, I cannot recall one memory of a kissing couple on the campus.

Let me continue.  Men were to wear ties during the week.  Only while I was attending did they relax the rule and allow men to remove their ties after lunch hour.  After lunch hour, the mandatory dress code was no less formal than a polo shirt and slacks.  Even on weekends, men could not wear jeans.  The women had to wear tights or pantyhose until after the lunch hour.  At one point, one of the sororities (or societies as they were called at BJU; more on that later) began wearing ties on Fridays.  After only two weeks of this practice, the board passed a rule to ban all women from wearing neckties because too many of the faculty were having impure thoughts as a result.  The same rule was applied to leather boots.  Eventually, a rule was enacted that mandated that women wear clothes that allowed no less than two inches of loose material on each side of their bodies (top or bottom; consequentially, the only bottoms permitted for women on campus were dresses or skirts; no pants).  If any woman student was through to have breached this mandate, they were susceptible to immediate inspection by any woman faculty or staff member.  Through my connections with the student body president during my junior year, I was told this dress code was maintained as a result of the visitors' comments that "the student body looked so sharp."

This university was ruled by an unseen force.  Many supposed this to be the board of directors, but I always suspected it to be Beelzebub himself.  The students were brainwashed to believe that the greatest calling, and thus, the best program to study, was the ministry (e.g. preacher, pastor, third-world missionary, etc).  Even by liberal values, this seemed a noble goal: the giving of oneself to others through the ministry.  Unfortunately, the future ministers were taught less about helping others and more on helping propagate the filth taught at this university.

Demerits: the incremental doom brought down upon the student body kept those righteous in the student body constantly on their best behavior, and kept the rest of us wishing the faculty couldn't add.  If a student accumulated 150 demerits within a semester, that student would be expelled.  If the student reached 75 demerits, he couldn't leave campus.  If that student passed 100 demerits, he couldn't be caught even speaking to a member of the opposite sex (unless it was in an academic setting).  As it turns out, that student couldn't even be sitting two seats down from a member of the opposite sex during lunch hour.  Certain actions were attached with a comparable number of demerits.  If you didn't make your bed in the morning, you received 5 demerits.  If you didn't perform your daily duties cleaning your dorm room, the same number of demerits were accumulated.  If you were late for class, you received 10 demerits.  If you were marked absent, you received 25 demerits.  The same applied to the daily church services required for all students.  Occasionally, there were clerical errors, and students were marked absent that were actually in attendance.  In that case, they were to appear before a (relatively) informal judging committee that would require a professor's slip noting the error to remove the infraction from the student's record.  The lines for these informal committees were often over 100 students long, despite being held twice a day ever other day of the week.

Introduction

I suppose the only way to get you to read this story entirely is to tell you how it ends.  I was expelled from university only 16 days from graduation.  The real tragedy: I was only 18 years old.  That's right, I began university at 15 years of age.  I hated home life, and determined to start university early to get away from my parents, I finished high school in two years (plus, I was always the youngest in my class).  Turns out I jumped out of that frying pan and straight into hell.

So there I was, sitting in the parking lot of Outback fucking Steakhouse.  I was supposed to spend the evening with my brother and mother celebrating my imminent graduation from university.  Instead, I had only my crushed dreams.  My mom pulled up and got out of the car.  She couldn't even look at me she was so heartbroken.  At that point in my day, only one thought kept passing through my shell-shocked brain: fuck you, world.  I had just been dealt the shittiest hand a person in my position could have picked up.

Ok, so how did I get to this point?  What force caused my untimely demise?  That's the boring part.  I was raised in a conservative, independent, fundamental Christian environment.  Twice a Sunday and every Wednesday I was in church.  Sometimes there were church activities that had me surrounded by the same people that sat next to me in the pews (pews are benches with a purpose: to make you as uncomfortable as possible in order to keep you awake during a preacher's rantings).  Parts of this is probably familiar to some of you.  The rest of you can use your imagination.  You know how you act around your family?  You wouldn't act that way around other people.  Well, the members in an independent fundamental Christian church were your family.  Everyone acted as they would as if they were all living in the same household.  Shitty jokes were told and forced laughter followed.  Instead of one father, you now had 30+.  Dating was strictly chaperoned, if allowed at all.  Touching was not permitted between members of the opposite sex.  In one church I attended, girls and boys were not allowed to even talk to each other.  Every church I attended had cobbled together some mom and pop Christian "school" that was somehow allowed to teach us kids.  So now imagine that you are going to church every day of the week except Saturday.  Although, Saturday's usually had their own activities planned.  So, church...seven days a week.  Are you getting the picture?  This life was fucking hell, and I wanted out as soon as possible.  That's why I finished high school in two years.

The university I attended was little different from these churches.  Why did I choose this university?  My parents had prepaid for me to attend before I even finished the 6th grade.  When the time came to "choose" the university I wanted to go to I was forced to decide between a free ride or complete ostracization from my whole world.  I knew I was not being treated fairly at home, but still, I was being fed for free.  Some kids don't even get that from their parents.  So I chose the free ride.  I didn't care, I was going to college at 15 fucking years old!  I knew it wasn't a record, but it was still impressive.

Personally, describing Bob Jones University (BJU) is like ripping off a scab.  I have shoved those memories so far into repression that it's hard for me to easily recall all the travesties against the students.  Some of what I am about to recall may come as a shock to individuals that have been educated through public avenues.  BJU was the buckle of the Bible belt.  It was the Mecca of the independent fundamental Christians.  Truth was, though, BJU would accept anyone that bothered applying.  The reason they were not as discriminating about the acceptance of their applicants was this: it was routine for the first service of the year to be an honest-to-god come to Jesus meeting.  The university would hold a mandatory service for all students in order to proselytize as many of their new applicants (and possibly some of the returning students) as they could.

My first two years at BJU, I was still under the spell of my father's religion.  What I mean by that is I was still at that age or impression that what my father told me was absolute truth.  Due to my sheltered upbringing, I managed to keep that mentality until I was almost 17, while most boys my age lost their innocence (so to speak) much earlier.  My second semester, sophomore year changed my life forever.  And it's all their fault.  Every student was required to take a Bible-based course each semester they were enrolled, or they were not eligible for graduation.  I dutifully enrolled for my Bible class that semester just as I had every semester since arriving. This class was no different than in application than any other class. However, during a lecture, the professor let it slip that variable interpretation of the Bible was acceptable. I could not believe what I just heard. This professor had just given us license to question every rule and principle we had ever been taught in the church! Unfortunately, my father, as well as other leaders of the university did not seem to fully agree with that perspective. Their interpretation was deemed more accurate due to several reasons: higher authority, more credible research backing their interpretation, ad nauseum. Unfortunately for them, my innocence was lost, and my father's word no longer stood unchallenged. If they wanted to enforce their rules, I needed sustainable reasons!

August 22, 2011

This here is news

So I've decided to finally enter the blogging world.  There is a lot of pain and alcohol fueling the following rants.  I can't promise that updates will be grammatically correct or timely.  However, I can promise good times and gasps for all those that read these words.

About 9 months ago, I typed up my feelings about a certain period of my life.  I was drinking wine at the time, and I figured it would be a healing exercise.  However, reading my rant after this period of time has convinced me I am a pretty good writer.  I am no master (yet).  However, I expect my form to improve as I continue to put thought to keyboard.

Farewell and happy future met.